Haskin Series Part 1: Rachel Rocks the Spa

Through the remainder of the year, I am going to recount some of my most memorable experiences/moments in racing over the past 40 years. Some will be recycled from past columns (at least 3 years old for those who didn’t read them the first time) with new material added. Some, such as this, will be long, but that should be expected from this often verbose column. We begin with Rachel Alexandra’s victory in the 2009 Woodward Stakes to kick off Saratoga’s 150th anniversary. Future columns will include Dr. Fager and Damascus in the 1968 Suburban/Brooklyn, Cigar at Madison Square Garden, a visit with Secretariat’s old grooms from Meadow Farm, Zenyatta the day after the 2010 Breeders’ Cup, Forego’s 1977 Woodward, Da Hoss’ Miracle Mile, Arazi’s long-awaited arrival at Churchill Downs for the 1992 Kentucky Derby, the saga of Canonero II, yet again, Touch Gold’s 1997 Belmont Stakes, Smarty Jones’ open houses at Philly Park, and more. This is what is known as PTCS (Post Triple Crown Syndrome).


Another Saratoga meet had passed into history, and all eyes were now on Belmont Park’s Super Saturday. But the one star who would have truly made it super was missing. Rachel Alexandra, racing’s reigning monarch had days earlier been forced to abdicate her throne and was now preparing to depart for another life.

The autumn leaves, in different shades of browns and yellows, were already falling in upstate New York. The Oklahoma training track was quiet, seemingly a million miles away from the cheers that greeted New York‘s own, Haynesfield, following his stirring victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. A little over an hour earlier, Life At Ten, who had finished more than 10 lengths behind Rachel Alexandra in the Personal Ensign Stakes, was being led into the winner’s circle with little fanfare after a workmanlike victory in the Beldame Stakes, a race Rachel had been pointing for.

There would be even less fanfare several days later as Rachel bid farewell to the racetrack and embarked on her journey to Kentucky and life as a broodmare. There were no trumpet calls, no banners waving, no cheering crowds. Those days were gone. It is unfortunate that Rachel’s adoring fans never got a chance to give her a proper goodbye. The last sounds Rachel should have heard were the cheers that had been so familiar to her in 2009 and on occasion in 2010.

Instead, she left Saratoga in silence. It had been some 13 months since those old rafters rocked like they had never rocked before. Thinking back to that emotion-filled September afternoon when Rachel Alexandra left part of herself on the Saratoga stretch, it was as if her 2010 campaign never happened. Misguided from the beginning, it surely will fade from memory with time. But even in her narrow defeats, Rachel never stopped giving her all, battling to the wire against foes she would have left reeling the year before.

The clouds that enshrouded her 4-year-old season will quickly dissipate, bringing clarity to a 2009 tour de force that likely will never be equaled by a 3-year-old filly.

And for as long as racing fans flock to Saratoga in droves each year, that final triumph in the Woodward Stakes will remain frozen in time, as will the deafening roar that greeted Rachel Alexandra following her gut-wrenching victory. Racing’s grand old lady has experienced many great moments in 145 years, but never has she been engulfed by such an eruption of sound as she was on this day.

But it came at a price. The Woodward would claim not only the victor, but those who dared to challenge her. Rachel would go on to win other races, but we would never again see that same grace and devastating power and the sheer joy of running we witnessed in the spring and summer of 2009.

As then 97-year-old racing legend John Nerud pointed out. “They sent two speed horses after her and made her go in :22 4/5, then they came after her one at a time and she put them all away. Those were tough older horses and they tried everything they could to get her beat and they couldn’t. I think she’s the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t compare her to anyone.”

The skeptics will point out that Macho Again and Bullsbay were just ordinary horses, and defeating them did nothing to boost Rachel’s reputation. A good deal of that skepticism was based on what they did, or didn’t do, after the Woodward. What they didn’t realize was that the horses who entered the starting gate to face Rachel in the Woodward were far different than the shattered fragments that remained after they looked Rachel in the eye. Macho Again and third-place finisher Bullsbay raced a total of 10 more times and managed only one second-place finish by the latter.

Macho Again went into the Woodward having won the Stephen Foster Handicap and New Orleans Handicap and the previous year’s Jim Dandy Stakes, and Derby Trial Stakes with rousing stretch runs, and was second in the Preakness and Super Derby. He came into the Woodward off a fast-closing second to Bullsbay in the Whitney, run in a sharp 1:48 flat for the 1 1/8 miles. Bullsbay had finished a close fourth, beaten 1 ¼ lengths, in the Stephen Foster and had won the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs. In the Whitney, his explosive of turn of foot, in which he went from 11 lengths back to the lead, was one of the highlights of the meet.

Also in the Woodward, making a threatening move on the far turn, was Asiatic Boy, the first horse ever to sweep the United Arab Emirates Triple Crown. He also was second in the Dubai World Cup to Curlin, second in the Stephen Foster to Macho Again, finishing ahead of Einstein, and second in the Suburban Handicap. Past the Point, who looked Rachel in the eye after she seemingly had been softened up by Da’ Tara and Cool Coal Man, had put a scare in Horse of the Year Curlin in the previous year’s Woodward, pulling up to his flank in the stretch, only to be beaten 1 1/4 lengths.

All these horses went into the Woodward coming off a win or a second. All made their moves at Rachel at some point, and none were ever the same. This was a race that gutted Rachel and all those who challenged her. Rachel gave every ounce of her being, turning back one challenge after another in testing fractions, and who knows in the long run how much of her heart spilled out onto the Saratoga track that day.

What made her victory even more impressive was that it was her eighth of the year, at seven different racetracks, and ninth in succession, including victories over the colts in the Preakness and Haskell Invitational.

It was her bravery in battle at the end of one of the most ambitious 3-year-old campaigns in the history of the sport that truly defined her greatness and set off the wave of emotion that greeted her after the race and the pandemonium that engulfed all those standing on the racetrack.

It was that same bravery that had her trainer, Steve Asmussen, weeping in his wife Julie’s arms, as he buried his head in her embrace. When his oldest son, Keith, said to him, “I’ve never seen you cry at the races,” Asmussen replied, “I never needed to.”

And it was that bravery that had her exercise rider Dominic Terry bawling behind his sunglasses and walking around in a daze, repeating, “She did it…she did it…she did it.” The following morning, he still was “physically and mentally exhausted.”

Noted veterinarian Dr. Mark Cheney said, “You don’t see many horses livin’ that could have won that race.”

Even the vanquished became caught up in the enormity of Rachel’s achievement. “She had everything thrown at her and she overcame it all,” said Graham Motion, trainer of Bullsbay. “I’ve never seen anything like it. You had that feeling of a horse trying for the Triple Crown. It’s the stuff of legends.”

Motion spoke as he and his wife Anita were driving away from the test barn and heading back to their barn a short distance away. Remaining behind was their 12-year-old daughter Jane, who was waiting patiently outside the gates of the test barn with camera in hand.

“She’s not worried about my horse,” Motion said jokingly. “She wants to stay and see the filly.”

All Jane wanted was one photo of Rachel Alexandra. “I just want to show my friends,” she said.

Rachel Alexandra will forever remain a part of Saratoga history. Prior to the Woodward, there were signs all along Broadway, reading, “Rachel Alexandra: Run Like a Girl.”

Saratoga mayor Scott T. Johnson proclaimed Sept. 5, 2009 “Rachel Alexandra Day.” Two days before the Woodward, Rachel received a huge ovation when she schooled in the paddock, as a horde of photographers, cameramen, and onlookers followed after her like a pack of paparazzi. All Asmussen could say was, “She’s a deserving diva.”

On race day, fans began lining up to secure their place around the paddock and along the path leading to the paddock several races before the Woodward. As the race approached, the cheers could be heard well off in the distance, signifying Rachel’s imminent arrival.

“I’ve walked over for a lot of big races – the Dubai World Cup, the Triple Crown races, last year’s Woodward,” said assistant Scott Blasi. “I have never felt that kind of adoration for one horse. I’m talking about people 10 deep on both sides walking to the paddock, and all they want to do is get a glimpse of her. If anyone thinks people don’t love horse racing they should have been in my shoes walking to the paddock.”

Asmussen added, “I’ve never seen them lined up like that. It was like a soccer game where everybody is pressed up against each other to get a look. When we walked Curlin over last year it was a big deal, but it wasn’t anything like this. They were three and four deep for Curlin, and they were at least 10 deep just to get a peek at her.”

As the field approached the starting gate, majority owner Jess Jackson took a final sip of his beverage and stared intently at his filly, as his wife, Barbara Banke, held her hand against the side of her face and continuously rocked back and forth in her seat. Several boxes away, an intense Asmussen leaned forward and sat there motionless while Julie clasped her hands together and rested them against her lips. They were well aware that Rachel was only nine furlongs away from entrance into the pantheon of the immortals.
A roar went up from the crowd of almost 32,000 as the field broke from the gate.

The race itself was amazing in that just about every horse in the field took a run at Rachel. First it was 2008 Belmont Stakes winner Da’ Tara, then his hard-knocking stablemate Cool Coal Man, who was coming off a 12 3/4-length romp in the Albert the Great Stakes. It was apparent from the start that Rachel had the proverbial bullseye on her back, and one by one, the darts were being hurled at her.

After a brutal opening quarter in :22 4/5, track announcer Tom Durkin bellowed, “There’ll be no free ride for Rachel Alexandra. They’re making her work for every step today.”

In the stands, Jackson’s bloodstock agent John Moynihan, like many, had a sinking feeling. “I put my program down and put my head in my hands,” he said. “All I could think was, ‘How could this have happened today?”

When Da’ Tara and Cool Coal Man began their rapid retreats following a half in :46 2/5, Past the Point took his run at Rachel, the three-quarters in a testing in 1:10 2/5. Rachel thwarted that bid, and then came the big final assault. Bullsbay, who was so explosive in the Whitney, pulled up to her flank turning for home, as Asiatic Boy and Macho Again moved in for the kill, expecting to encounter a softened up Rachel in the final furlong.

Rachel was set down by Calvin Borel, who hit her five times right-handed and then three times left-handed. She turned back Bullsbay’s challenge, but here came a fresh Macho Again, who had found a gaping hole at the top of the stretch. The charging gray stormed up alongside Rachel, who was now being barraged with a series of 13 desperate right-handed whips from Borel. Macho Again kept coming, but Rachel kept finding more. The crowd urged Rachel to hold on, their hearts pounding with every stride.

Rachel continued to dig in and would not let Macho Again get by. This was a filly who had won all her races eased up with her ears pricked, never feeling to sting of the whip. Now she had her ears pinned and was under a salvo of left and right-handed whips by a frantic Borel. Rachel would not be denied, hitting the wire a head in front. The place went crazy. Despite her early efforts, she still was able to close her final eighth in a respectable :12 4/5 to complete the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48 1/5, earning a 109 Beyer speed figure – this coming after a grueling campaign that saw her run a 108 Beyer in the Kentucky Oaks, a 108 in the Preakness, a 111 in the Mother Goose, and a monster 116 in the Haskell Invitational.

Rachel’s time still is the fastest Woodward in the seven years it’s been run at Saratoga – faster than Curlin, Quality Road, Lawyer Ron, Havre de Grace, Premium Tap, and To Honor and Serve.

Rachel returned to a deafening ovation, which reached a crescendo when a jubilant Borel led the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro into the winner’s circle. After the photo, Borel draped the blanket of pink carnations over his shoulder and dismounted.

Rachel Alexandra had become the first filly to win the Woodward. The last 3-year-old filly to even run in the race was Summer Guest in 1972. This was the equivalent of a 23-year-old girl beating 30-something males. No 3-year-old filly had ever defeated older males in a two-turn, grade I dirt race. The last to win a major two-turn dirt stakes over her elders was Misty Morn in the 1955 Gallant Fox Handicap.

As Rachel was led back to the barn and the crowd began to quiet down, Durkin announced, “Well, folks, if your heart can take it, we’ve got two more races.”

Jackson, who owned Rachel in partnership with Harold McCormick, summed it up best: “I think she’s something for the ages. The 56th running of the Woodward was a great one for the history books, and I’m so pleased for her. For her to hang in there like that with six giant males racing with her was something special.”

Asmussen said the early fractions “may have taken a few years off my life but it was probably worth it.”

After signing dozens of autographs, Asmussen hopped over the fence of the jockey’s quarters and headed to the test barn, receiving congratulations the entire way.

“You deserve all the accolades,” one person shouted. “No, she does,” Asmussen replied.

As he walked, he was able to reflect a bit more on what Rachel had achieved: “It’s hard enough to be brilliant once in a while, but every race? Oh, my God, she’s been doing it since mid-February. She showed she’s truly a champion today. I get nervous, I admit it. I wouldn’t go downstairs until they put her number up; that’s me.”

As Rachel left the test barn and crossed Union Ave. to the Oklahoma training track, the halted traffic was already backed up and a few lucky fans in the front cars were able to get a final look at Rachel as she headed home.

Back at the barn, Rachel was put away for the night, picking away at her alfalfa and occasionally eyeing all the activity outside the barn.

Jackson took great pride in having orchestrated a good portion of Rachel’s perfect season, in which she became the first filly to win three grade I races on dirt against males in a single year. “I’ve made more money as a handicapper than I did as a lawyer,” he said. “We kept looking for a better target and we kept finding one.”

As he was about to leave for dinner, Jackson said, “There’s an aura around her, isn’t there? It was quite a day. I think I’ll have a double scotch tonight.”

As darkness fell, assistant trainer Blasi tried to put everything in perspective. “She’s absolutely unbelievable,” he said. “There’s no comparing her to anyone. They all compare to her now. What she did today, you will never see anything like it again.”

The following morning, Asmussen arrived around 5:30 to find Rachel sprawled out in her stall. After she got up, Asmussen had the urge to lavish some affection on her but thought better of it.

“I’m a big sap, and I wanted to hug her,” he said. “And she was like, ‘Get away from me you big sap.’ She’s game on. She don’t belong in a petting zoo. I’m just proud as hell, but I’m happy for racing. The fans walked out of the grandstand smiling and not everyone walks out of the races smiling.”

And how did the Asmussens celebrate the night before? “We ordered out and watched the DVD of the race repeatedly,” he said. “And we just talked about how lucky we are to be around her.”

Rachel’s greatness was defined in many ways, including the remarkable statistics she compiled

Throughout 2009, Rachel constantly was flattered by horses she has trounced. Gabby's Golden Gal was beaten 29 1/4 lengths by Rachel in the Kentucky Oaks and came back to win the grade I Acorn Stakes in 1:34 3/5. Flashing was beaten 31 1/2 lengths by Rachel in the Mother Goose and came back to win the grade I Test Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths. Summer Bird was beaten six lengths by Rachel in the Haskell and came back to win the Travers Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Take the Points was beaten 32 3/4 lengths by Rachel in the Preakness and came back to win the grade I Secretariat Stakes. Just Jenda was beaten 11 3/4 lengths by Rachel in the Fantasy Stakes and came back to win the Monmouth Oaks by 4 1/4 lengths.

Bon Jovi Girl, beaten 14 3/4 lengths by Rachel in the Fantasy Stakes, came back to win the Susan’s Girl Stakes by eight lengths and place in the then grade II Cotillion Stakes and the grade I Gazelle Stakes. Malibu Prayer, beaten 19 1/4 lengths in the Mother Goose, went on to win the Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs, an overnight stakes at Belmont by 6 3/4 lengths, and finish second in the Delaware Oaks and Monmouth Oaks. In 2010, she won the grade I Ruffian Handicap. Past the Point, beaten 17 3/4 lengths by Rachel in the Woodward, came right back to finish second, beaten a half-length, in the grade III Bold Ruler Stakes. Although Munnings, beaten seven lengths in the Haskell, did not win a subsequent stakes, he did finish third in the grade I King’s Bishop and Vosburgh over sloppy tracks before being retired. Even Sara Louise, who was beaten 4 3/4 lengths by Rachel in the previous year’s Golden Rod, won the grade III Victory Ride Stakes at Saratoga in 1:09 3/5 in her 3-year-old debut and then captured the grade II Ladies Handicap.

In 2009 alone she:

Defeated eight Derby winners (Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby, Louisiana Derby, Illinois Derby, Tampa Bay Derby, Iowa Derby, and UAE Derby), plus the runner-up in the West Virginia Derby.

Defeated eight grade I-winning males, including the winners of the Belmont Stakes (twice), Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Whitney, Stephen Foster, Blue Grass, and Secretariat Stakes, as well as the winners of the Oaklawn Handicap, New Orleans Handicap, Jim Dandy Stakes, Tom Fool Handicap. Woody Stephens Stakes, and Lone Star Handicap.

Became the first filly to defeat three classic-winning males, and defeated the 1-2-3 finishers of the Kentucky Derby, the 1-2 finishers of the Whitney , the 1-2 finishers of the Stephen Foster, and the 1-3 finishers of the Belmont Stakes.

Her last six victories in 2009 all had historical significance.

Fantasy Stakes -- Biggest margin in the history of the race (8 3/4 lengths).

Kentucky Oaks -- Biggest margin in the history of the race (20 1/4 lengths).

Preakness -- First filly to win the Preakness in 85 years and the first horse in history to win from post 13.

Mother Goose -- Biggest margin in the history of the race (19 1/4 lengths), previously held by Ruffian, and ran the fastest time in the history of the race (1:46 1/5) -- I cannot recall ever seeing a horse run so fast (four-fifths off Secretariat’s track and then-American record) so easily, with the possible exception of Dr. Fager’s world record mile at Arlington.

Haskell -- Second biggest margin in the history of the race (six lengths), and second fastest time (1:47 1/5) in the history of the race by one fifth of a second, and two fifths of a second off the track record set by Spend a Buck 24 years earlier.

Woodward -- First filly in history to win the Woodward, and ran the fastest time since the race was moved to Saratoga.

Even winning the Woodward by a head and the Preakness by one length, Rachel’s average margin of victory in 2009 was an astounding 8 1/4 lengths.

People, of course, will remember Rachel for her devastating victories in the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose, her classic score in the Preakness, and her romp in the Haskell. But what truly defined Rachel’s greatness was her courageous victory in the Woodward at the end of an ambitious, unprecedented campaign.

No one will ever know for sure what toll the Woodward took on her. There is no doubt she was not the same horse in 2010, and there is no denying the fact that, although she remained in Asmussen’s barn over the winter, she did not have a single work in five months.

We can only speculate just how much of her she left on the track that day. But there’s one thing that is certain. She left behind a moment in history.

In “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Hemingway asks, “But did thee feel the earth move?

Just ask those at Saratoga on Sept. 5, 2009.

80 Comments

Leave a Comment:

SpectacularB

Thank you for putting into words what it was like to be at Saratoga on September 5, 2009. I will never forget.  And for putting into words all that Rachel Alexandra was. One for the ages. We won't see one like her again anytime soon.  I envy those who stood at the Oklahoma rail on early summer mornings to watch the filly dance and pull, waiting for the okay to let her go-go-GO!! The railbirds waiting to hear the  whisper of her hooves flying over that track at dawn.

17 Jun 2013 8:00 PM
captainsmistress

Thank You, Steve! This bell tolls for Rachel Alexandra!

17 Jun 2013 8:06 PM
livewire

Yes Steve, she brings honor to some of the fleet fillies of the past, Ruffian, Desert Vixen, Lady's Secret.  As I recall, didn't Desert Vixen run a record nine furlongs?  If only Ruffian had lived, what might have been.  Those testing races between Lady's Secret and Precisionist are also worth remembering.  That either horse even placed 2nd and 3rd after their speed duels.  We have definitely seen some great mares, especially recently.  

17 Jun 2013 8:41 PM
Afleet

What a great story!  I wish I could have seen her race in person  

17 Jun 2013 8:44 PM
Lydia

Excellent.  Lots of tears here! Happy tears.  Hard to believe the crowd was only 32,000. The noise level was crazy.  So glad I was there to see it.

And even at four, Life At Ten tried to run with Rachel early at Saratoga and she wasn't the same afterward either so add her to your list.  Unfortunately, that duel set it up for the Phipps filly.

17 Jun 2013 9:21 PM
robinm

Oh, Steve; thank you for this.  Though many race horses are special to me for various reasons, Rachel is my absolute all-time favorite. Your wonderful words explain why.  

Alas, I did not have the privilege of seeing even one of her magnificent races in person, but I have seen video of every race of her astounding sophomore campaign, surely the toughest of any 3 yr old filly in modern history. I truly believe we will never again see a filly, possibly any horse, complete as testing a campaign with such brilliance.

17 Jun 2013 9:29 PM
Jeff Hall

AWESOME article!  And to think people questioned who was HOY?!?  Rachel was not just HOY, she was the horse of a lifetime!!

17 Jun 2013 10:05 PM
serena

Just one word: WOW!   Maybe three: she's amazing!  

17 Jun 2013 10:38 PM
Racemare

I have seen Secretariat, Ruffian, Affirmed & Alydar, all race at Saratoga, I worked there for years, in the 70's to the early 90's. I never heard the noise & emotion as that day. My view was at the finish line in the box section, the building absolutely shook. There were men standing next to me who had tears streaming down their faces. The crowd was deafening as Rachel strained for the finish line. I have seen many great races, but will never forget that day. Thank You Rachel, may you live a long peaceful life.

17 Jun 2013 10:44 PM
Nancy Tague

For Rachel fans, here's a terrific youtube video montage of her 3yo season: Rachel Alexandra Arise. Guaranteed to bring back the goosebumps. www.youtube.com/watch

17 Jun 2013 10:46 PM
LINDA MARIE

THANK YOU FOR THIS AND THE PROMISE OF A CONTINUING SERIES ...I LOOK FORWARD TO IT!

17 Jun 2013 10:46 PM
Tiz Herself

Steve - you have done it again. Rachel Alexandra was and will be one of the best fillies to ever run. I hope one day to meet the champion herself in person and maybe will check that on my next trip to Kentucky. She captured the hearts of so many. I have some HRTV dvd and one was the story of Rachel and the little girl leading up to the Kentucky Oaks. Special horse and stories surrounding her for years to come.

Thank you Steve - in a life of many downs all I need to do is open one of your blogs or books and dive in and everything is right again :)

One of my favorite articles, blogs that you wrote was the one you did on Skip Away with those photographs... amazing.

Simply the best Steve, all the best! Would love to meet some day and listen to the stories. You are an inspiration.

Long live Rachel Alexandra!

17 Jun 2013 11:01 PM
Tiz Herself

Cannot wait to see Rachel's sister Samantha Nicole begin her racing career in Stonestreet colors!

17 Jun 2013 11:03 PM
Tiz Herself

2009 was one of the best years in racing, Rachel made history as did Zenyatta.

You also had Birdstone siring the Kentucky Derby winner and the Belmont Stakes winner in his freshman crop.

There was Gio Ponti, Life is Sweet, Conduit, the gutsy Presious Passion, Champs Elysees, Informed Decision, Einstein, She Be Wild, Lookin at Lucky, Pioneerof the Nile, Midday, Ventura, Goldikova, Quality Road, Musket Man, Forever Together, Kodiak Kowboy, Rail Trip, Blind Luck, General Quarters, I Want Revenge, The Usual Q. T... this list can go on and on.

Speaking of Z - This is not Zenyatta, but another filly to maybe look forward to running, she is in the Fasig Tipton - this bay filly is hip 51 and is a daughter of freshman sire Desert Party. Desert Party of course is a son of Street Cry, sire of Zenyatta. This filly's dam is Lil Cozette who is by Kris S. VERTIGINEUX of course is sired by Kris S as well. See the similarities between the two? Obviously there will only ever be one Zenyatta, but I have this filly bookmarked and am eager to see how she fares.

www.fasigtipton.com/.../51.pdf

17 Jun 2013 11:15 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, I just loved this! I was one of those that had two favorite children: Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. I was also one of those that was very happy they never met. I couldn't bear to see either one lose to the other. I know a true bettor/handicapper would never say those words, but that's how I felt. Rachel's 3 year old year was spectacular and you are right, I doubt we will ever see it equalled. The Woodward was a testament to her absolute courage. I was in awe watching her win that race. To say she didn't beat any horse of consequence is rubbish, as you discussed above. The following year was also a testament to her courage. I have never seen a female horse give every ounce she had the way she did in 2010. You knew that even if she came in second, you were watching an incredible athlete with courage oozing out of her pores. Frankly, her 2010 year made me love her even more, just like Zenyatta's 2010 Breeders Cup Classic. Even though she wasn't in the same shape as 2009, she tried so hard and you could see it. She wasn't just phoning in her races. She wanted to win. As you also said, I wish she could have been paraded before the fans who loved her when she was retired. But perhaps Mr. Jackson was getting sicker at that point and they had other things on their minds. Hard to know. When she developed an abdominal infection this year, it broke my heart and like everyone else, I wasn't sure she would make it. To see her pull through like she did, just reinforces my belief that she is an exceptionally intelligent and gutsy horse. To see Barbara Banke with her while she was sick was a lesson in devotion. Clearly, Rachel is well loved. Rachel is one for the ages and we were so lucky to see her in our lifetime.

18 Jun 2013 12:15 AM
marapace

TY Steve to a wonderful start to PTCS. Love Rachel and have enjoyed her presence on several occasions. I dont expect to see another 3YO Filly like her for another 40 years, if Im lucky. If she had never raced again after the Woodward, it would have been enough. Have my suspicions about the 4YO campaign but expect that will be held tight for many years to come yet. Regardless she is all class and her 3YO season was historical and glad I was able to watch it all

18 Jun 2013 12:40 AM
Tracey Gilbert

She was one of the best horses I have ever had the privilege of seeing. She, Black Caviar, Frankel and Zenyatta were truly awesome. I will never forget Rachel's 3yo season which deservedly won her HOTY honours. A very special racehorse and a true legend.

18 Jun 2013 2:44 AM
Storm Catwoman

Steve,

Great article! When you see all of Rachel's accomplishments and those of her worthy opponents listed out, it's overwhelming. She is truly one of the greats and I feel privileged to have seen her run, Just hard to believe some thought another horse should have been HOY with that record. Also, I too suffer from PTCS so thanks for this non-pharmacolgic antidepressant. Looking forward to more mood-altering articles.

18 Jun 2013 3:18 AM
dadofrachelalexandra

Thanks for your thoughtful and articulate words.  I first saw RA in the Martha Washington and didn't miss a second of her 3 and 4 year old races.  She will always be my favorite thoroughbred and I am excited to see how Jess's Dream will carry her spirit into racing's future.  2009 HOY will never be forgotten!

18 Jun 2013 3:19 AM
Don in Massachusetts

Thanks Steve for the awesome writing on one of racing history's greatest fillies.

I was fortunate to be there on that unbelievable day, and although I had attended a Belmont Stakes and a Kentucky Derby, I have never experienced the sheer joy and celebration which exploded at Saratoga after Rachel's triumph.  In reading your article, I got those same goosebumps once again.

I also was present at Rachel's win in the Mother Goose, because frankly, I wanted to attend as many races in which she was entered as I could.  During that 2009, there was no other horse, or human, for that matter, that I would travel so far and so often to see; she was my Rock Star!!!

I am looking forward to being present when Rachel Alexandra is inducted into racing's Hall of Fame, and I know that you will be there.

Thanks again for such an superb article on an extraordinary filly...RACHEL ALEXANDRA!!!

[BTW, I am the guy who sent you that photo of you feeding Zenyatta an apple after her failed BC Classic on the Churchill Downs backstretch in 2010.  Do you still have it?]

18 Jun 2013 6:30 AM
datflippinrabbit

Thats exactly why i was and am in agreement of her HOY award.

18 Jun 2013 6:42 AM
Proud Acres

Wow, it brings back the pride I felt for her that year.  I never got a chance to see her run in person but she was absolutely horse of the year that year!  I have a picture of her in my office with other deserving TB's ie., Secretariat, Rags to Riches & Zenyatta.  But I totally agree with you that she is WAY UP THERE when you talk about champions.  Thanks Steve for great memories.  

18 Jun 2013 8:14 AM
ThoroGreats

Mr. Steve Haskin, this was fantastic article on a historic campaign. I see you plan to do some others on Forego, Arazi, Da Hoss, and some others. I would love for you to also do something on Easy Goer/Sunday Silence if you can. Please Please, it would be great.  Long overdue by the greatest racing writer. Thanks again

18 Jun 2013 9:18 AM
steve from st louis

This piece reminds me of the words of singer Joni Mitchell: "You don't know what you got 'till it's gone". Bravo!

18 Jun 2013 10:10 AM
Wulzen1

Thanks for helping us remember a horse of a life time. She was my now 8 year old daughter`s first real experience of dad cheering at the t.v. and was completely in awe of what was happening. She is, I hope, now a life long fan of the sport and still asks about Rachel.

18 Jun 2013 10:29 AM
Barthart

Steve--Your eloquence never fails to amaze me and bring so much life to everything. Would you consider putting these articles and experiences into a book form that we could buy? Thank you for sharing your wonderful insights with all of us!!

18 Jun 2013 10:31 AM
Steve Haskin

Don, I certainly do have it. It's right in my photo album of memories from that amazing afternoon, which will be a future column in the series. Thanks again for sending it.

18 Jun 2013 10:40 AM
Steve Haskin

Barthart, personally, I think all these stories would make an entertaining book, but it's difficult to do without a publisher. So, it will have to remain a blog series. But thanks for suggesting it.

ThoroGreats, I certainly could do a column on Sunday Silence/Easy Goer. You asked for it, you got it.

Wulzen, you planted a seed and I can almost guarantee you that she'll remember it and have a fond place in her heart for racing. But you do have to keep nurturing it.

18 Jun 2013 10:49 AM
Love 'em all

To this day, many of us believe the effect of that h o r r i b l e loud noise from the 2009 Woodward's madding crowd affected RA's love of racing from that day on .... and was never to return.  A lasting effect, for sure!  Peace and quiet must have been all RA yearned for after that race.    

RA's connections did the horse right by not subjecting her to that horrible noise again.  Her quiet exit from racing was just what she needed ... and deserved.  My sincere thanks to her folks ... once again.   There's gotta be a better way ... for the sake of the horse, of course.  Zenyatta wore ear plugs for a reason ... a very good reason.

RA, may peace and quiet be with you forever.  Miss you terribly and think of you often.

Mr. Haskin, you do know how to spoil us ... and looking forward to more of this series.  

18 Jun 2013 10:53 AM
gonewest

Great trip down memory lane.  The one thing I regret is that Rachel never got the chance to prove herself against the best filly of all-time, Zenyatta.  It would have been a helluva race.

18 Jun 2013 10:56 AM
Bill Rinker

Super Duper article Steve, I'm really looking forward to this series. I'm a big Rachel fan and am praying that she will return to the breeding shed with renewed vigor and produce healthy foals with no futher birthing complications. Lets assume that horses are capable of understanding the intricacies of racing victory, in so much as the ability to discern their riders intentions and actions. Lets also take it a step further and assume they understand their opponets intentions as well as the acompaning jockeys, and that this understanding could have an accumulative affect. If we can believe this (as I do fully) then can't we see how the use of the whip would ultimately lead to the demise of a horses racing courage or heart. Could it be possible that if the whip was banned from racing that a new connection and or ability would be accepted and embraced in the last grueling moments of the task at hand? It has been noted that some horses know where the finish line is, I wonder if we do to?  

18 Jun 2013 10:58 AM
Jackie WV

Steve, I read every one of your article but very seldom ever comment. Today I have to tell you what an impact Rachel had on my life. I was going thru a tough time in 2009 and somehow the excitement of Rachel made everything better. I was obsessed with her and followed every race. I was lucky enough to see her for a brief moment that year on the backside of Churchill Downs.  My sister and her friend still laugh about it to this day......When I saw her head sticking out of the stall I recognized her immediately.  I started walking toward her in a total daze and could barely catch my breath!!  I just kept saying..."OMG OMG OMG it's really her!!" I actually felt weak in the knees. I walked up to her and starred at the nameplate on her halter......I was in shock...I was actually touching Rachel the Great!! My sister had gone to the barn office to ask Scott Blasi for permission to see Rachel...LOL  I wasn't waiting for permission, this was my shot and I was taking it!!! Good thing because Scott wasn't very happy about me hanging out with Rachel without his permission. He looked at my sister and said..."Don't know why you're asking permission....looks like your sister is already on it"  We still laugh about that. It was a moment I will never forget!! I got the news about her almost dying after her second foal was born on the same day my mother passed away from a long battle with cancer. It was like taking a second blow to the head in one day.  I'm so thankful she made it thru.  I sincerely hope to see her again someday. I only hope to spend more than 3 minutes with her the next time.  Steve, thank you so much for the article today....it brought back so many emotional and happy moments for me!!   Jackie in WV

18 Jun 2013 11:38 AM
Jacklyn

Thank you Steve!  She deserved this great recounting of her campaign. Rachel is my favorite current racehorse. Do you know where her Curlin colt is?  Any information on if they will be able to breed her again after her surgery this Spring?

18 Jun 2013 11:56 AM
Lise from Maine

Hi!

Great story about Rachel.

Hope her recovery is coming along fine.

Was hoping to see photos of her.

Was sad to read on Bloodhorse that Ramon Dominquez has retired; he was my favorite jockey.

I hope a story about his retirement appears soon on this forum.

Why did he retire so young?

Thank you!

Lise from Maine

18 Jun 2013 12:16 PM
Colostate85

Steve,

Thank you so much for this story. Rachel was simply amazing! Her story and races made me love horse racing even more. She brought out smiles, cheers, and tears of joy in her spirit and grace.

I was lucky enough to see her at Jackson's farm and at the racetrack.. still I am blown away by her size and glowing personality. I show her racing replays to friends all the time and get goosebumps all the time.

Thank you!

Thomas, Colorado

18 Jun 2013 12:57 PM
Lynda Hernandez

Thanks for another great piece of writing.  I gained a better understanding of Rachel Alexander's level of performance and heart.  As someone who came back to horse racing through Zenyatta, I now know that there were two fillies who ruled in 2009!  The phenomena where a horse gives it's all and never fully recovers is puzzling and sad but I'm so looking forward to seeing Rachel and Zenyatta's colts and fillies race each other in the near future.

18 Jun 2013 1:17 PM
Guiness

Steve, My heart always breaks when I think of beautiful Rachel. She had such a grueling campaign in 2009, then to be sent off without a well-deserved parade. Followed by, two very difficult pregnancies , one almost costing her her life. Now , recently hearing Barbara Banke on a show stating that Rachel may never be bred again or if she does, it would be two or three years away. Rachel was such a good mother and she produced such beautiful foals.  Where does it end for her?  When is her happiness gonna come?  I am so thankful that she is so well loved like she is by her connections. It just breaks my heart that all she's been through , she still can't even catch a break in her retirement as being a mommy. I love Barbara Banke. To me, she and the Moss's are what you call A+ owners. Every thoroughbred should be so lucky.

18 Jun 2013 1:53 PM
The Deacon

Bravo Steve, again, always and still the best writer we have today.

This trip down Saratoga lore was breath taking. I felt I was there.

Rachel is one of the all time best fillies, that isn't even a question.

She ranks alongside the immortal Ruffian, Zenyatta, Susan's Girl, Lady's Secret, Silver Spoon, Personal Ensign and Ouiga Board to name a few........

Anxiously awaiting what's to come.....

18 Jun 2013 4:08 PM
Delrene

Thank you for your recollection of the wonderful Rachel Alexandra.  She was a filly and mare for the ages.  Her races as were Zenyatta's absolutely were heartpounding.  I truly feel so privileged to have been able to meet RA at her farm in 2012.  It is a moment in time I will never forget and am forever grateful to Ms. Banke for having a Rachel Alexandra day at her farm.  Seeing her and Zenyatta was a life-changing experience  I now appreciate more than ever each passing day.  May they both lead healthy, happy lives.  I look forward to more of your great memories.

18 Jun 2013 4:28 PM
Linda Stephan

I was there too, Steve. I have never heard such a noise: I was screaming too and could not hear myself! Happy as I was that she won, I also had a terrible feeling that I had just seen her last great race. The beating she took while giving her all, and the physical toll of such an effort... I was afraid her "heart" was broken. I prayed I was wrong, but I wasn't.

18 Jun 2013 4:35 PM
grey32

I am a hard core fan of RA. I think she was the greatest filly of all time.

I will not be kind or pretend there isn't a big black cloud attached to this story.

I do not believe for one Nano second that RA was broken at the Woodward. I believe she was  seriously mishandled in 2010 period.

I do believe that she is one pretty amazing creature to accomplish what she did in spite of being surrounded by many, many, "STUPID" humans.

I get very distressed because we don't hear or see what's going on with her offspring. Why?????

18 Jun 2013 4:52 PM
Linda Stephan

Forgot to say how great a writer you are, Steve. Thanks for all the wonderful articles. Yes, a book is in order! Also hope her Ms. Banke realizes she isn't built to be a broodmare and will not push her to produce more at risk of her life! She has given enough of herself already.

18 Jun 2013 4:52 PM
Bigtex

This article is spellbinding & gripping, Steve!  It's hard to believe Rachel ONLY got a beyer of 111 in the Mother Goose, plus, her 116 in the Haskell was a walk in the park for her that day.  I wished they could've taken more time to train her in 2010 before rushing her back to the track.  She was remarkable & your recount was awesome!

18 Jun 2013 5:38 PM
Ida Lee

To say I love Rachel is putting it mildly but not just because of her extraordinary talent on the track.

The first time I saw her, the thing I noticed first was her beauty and those eyes...my lord they are so intelligent and so knowing and so beautiful. My husband who doesn't even follow horseracing has a lovely photo of her as his computer wallpaper because as he put it..you don't see beauty like this every day. I have her photos in my home and office. I've read articles where the writer uses celestial terms to describe her beauty. So, like Secretariat, not only did we get an incredible athlete but a stunning beauty to boot. It doesn't get better than that...

18 Jun 2013 6:31 PM
Old Old Cat

Steve, another wonderful column and i am certain it will be part of a great series.  Thank you for all your effort and wonderful thoughful writings.  Thank you for thinking and writing outside of the box.  We never know what to expect next.  God bless you.

The one thing I feel was a big mistake for the horseracing industry during that time was not to allow the voters to vote for Rachael and Zenyatta as co-horse of the years.  That stodgy thinking is part of what is causing the lack of interest in the sport, and in the stories behind the sport.  We need more people like you involved.  I would vote for you for racing czar if the situation ever came up.  You can clearly think deeply, are not afraid to express your opinion, and seem to be a man of action, (like superman).

Thanks again.

18 Jun 2013 6:57 PM
Guiness

@Grey32. If you "like" Rachel Alexandra on Facebook or "like" Stonestreet farms, then you'll occasionally get updates and pictures of Rachel, Taco, and the filly she just recently had running around on the farm. Yes, the filly is growing like a weed and has done marvelous with her nursemare mom, Ojos.  No, they don't give the fans updates and pictures like LanesEnd and the Moss's update Zenyatta's website, but you do get the updates,pictures, and info to keep you in the loop of Rachel.  They are very good and quick in responding to questions  on FB at Stonestreetfarms. Give it try , I'm sure you'll get all the answers you want.

18 Jun 2013 7:35 PM
RamieF

Watch this video:

www.youtube.com/watch

It perfectly goes along with this beautifully written article by Steve. Seeing the races in sequence and the historical accomplishment of each really puts things in perspective. Rachel was put to the test thoroughly in 2009, and boy did she surpass all expectation! A true champion in every sense!

18 Jun 2013 7:53 PM
Mary

Rachel is a beauty, just don't like the linebreeding on the tail side of her pedigree.  I'm just thankful she is okay now, and hopefully her breeding days are over.  I love her so much.

I know this is off the subject, but on other blogs, people are wondering about Will Take Revenge, the ill-fated horse owned by IEAH stable, Dutrow, etc. No one can find him since he was retired in 2012. All are worried about his welfare.

18 Jun 2013 8:21 PM
Scott's Rail

Steve, definitely looking forward to your following stories.  But, don't you think that bar is set extremely high.  What I got,(from your story) is what I felt, while witnessing some of the great live races I encountered at Santa Anita back in the day.  Thank you Affirmed, Alysheba, Precisionist, Landaluce, Tiller, Exceller, Lady's Secret, Terlingua, and J.O. Tobin (H.P.) and an hard knockin' old claimer Bedouin.  And quite a few I have forgotten. Thanx for the reminder...

18 Jun 2013 8:48 PM
Fran Loszynski

Ruffian was a fillie sports heroine and dear beautiful Rachel is the movie star of the track. A wish for Ramon Dominguez a good life yes Scrappy T clipped heels with A fleet Alex but I saw you look out to see if he was alright as all good jockeys do Ramon.

18 Jun 2013 10:23 PM
RamieF

@ Old Old Cat,

It's obvious that you feel a co-HOY would have helped the sport, but truly, do you really think even if that occurred we would have seen a spike in fan base? I don't think so, and furthermore, Rachel's campaign was far more difficult than Zenyatta's in every sense. She earned the sole honor of HOY in 2009. And why do I say this? Because Rachel did things not expected of her the entire year, while Zenyatta had one race (as a mature 5-year old) against males on a biased questionable surface. Now, I'm sure Steve doesn't want this to turn into the nauseating debate that took place back then, pitting the two against each other. Just remember, Rachel was a baby taking on grown men, so it's not right to compare her to a full grown mare who mostly ran against less than stellar fields in California. I hope the comments stay focused on Rachel. She deserves her own glory. It does NOT need to be shared with Zenyatta. They were two totally different females with two totally different campaigns. Rachel won the honors and we will leave it at that. Zenyatta got the honors the following year, even though Blame earned it, so she got the award everyone demanded despite Blame's fantastic year and defeat of Zenyatta on her first start against males on dirt. Now doesn't that say something? Rachel faced and defeated males 3 times on dirt at age 3 alone. Zenyatta wasn't asked to do that until her final start. Big difference. And I don't recall Zenyatta setting any times records like Rachel did repeatedly, thus staying at her peak level for an astounding stretch of time. I'm not hating, just pointing out the facts. One campaign was VERY carefully chosen. The other campaign was one for the ages. That is why Steve is writing about and giving Rachel credit, particularly for the Woodward, which was at the tail-end of an arduous campaign we DON'T see anymore.

18 Jun 2013 10:38 PM
ra09hoy

Thanks Mr Haskin for this article.I have read it many times and still get emotional reading it.I was there that day and I tell people that weren't there it was the most exciting race I have ever been too.Rachel had every reason to lay down and give up with the Woodward but she kept fighting and triumphed.She is a true champion and one of the greatest horses male or female to set  hooves on a racetrack.As Tom Durkin said after the  Woodward"She is indeed Rachel Alexandra The Great"Yes Rachel you are and always will be Great!!

18 Jun 2013 11:00 PM
robinm

I'm so glad to see the love for Rachel on this blog.  I posted my thoughts earlier but feel compelled to add a couple of  comments in response to posts comparing Rachel and Zenyatta, and, speculation regarding Rachel's less than stellar and abbreviated 2010 campaign.

First, in my opinion, it's virtually impossible to compare Rachel and Zenyatta.  It's like comparing apples and oranges.  During 2009, Rachel was a 3-yr old filly who compiled arguably the best campaign of any filly in history.  She always ran on the lead or just off the pace and ran every step of every race.  Zenyatta was a 5-yr old mare, conservatively handled and spotted by her connections.  She was a confirmed closer who only ran hard the last part of her races.  Her stretch runs were breathtaking, yes, but truly, the only comparison between Rachel and Zenyatta in 2009 is that they were both undefeated.

Second, I doubt we'll ever know with certainty why Rachel was not the same horse in 2010 or why she was inexplicably retired mid-season after posting her best workout of the year.  I suspect the early retirement was related to Mr. Jackson's illness.  I'm guessing he wanted to hurry her to the breeding shed for her date with Curlin in hopes of living to see their offspring. I'm not Mr. Jackson's greatest fan, but we would not have seen the best of Rachel if he had not purchased a majority interest in her, and I'm sorry he died before seeing the results of his dream match.

I'm so glad  that Steve chose Rachel to launch this series and I'm really looking for the next installment!

18 Jun 2013 11:03 PM
robinm

Mary, would love to know what linebreeding in the female half of Rachel's pedigree you don't like.

Also, I think you must mean "I Want Revenge".  I'm curious to know how he is doing as well.

18 Jun 2013 11:07 PM
slee

According to an exchange on horseracingnation.com, a 5 day old posting says that earlier this spring "I Want Revenge" was sold to Doug Arnold and Ben Walden.  "Mary Z." found him after a diligent search.  Ben Walden Jr. is listed elsewhere as being at the Vinery at Midway, and Doug Arnold is at Buck Pond Farm at Versailles, both in KY.

19 Jun 2013 9:47 AM
Mary

Sorry robinm, yes I Want Revenge.  Since IEAH went under and Dutrow is gone, many people are wondering what happened to this horse.  I and others can't seem to find him.

As far as the beautiful Rachel, I don't like the Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector (Native Dancer), on the tail side of her pedigree.  IMO, which I think is objective, she was bred for speed rather than endurance.  If you look at the pedigrees of Zenyatta and/or Rags to Riches; they were both bred for stamina.  I guess that is why Rags had no problem winning the Belmont.    

19 Jun 2013 10:07 AM
Mary

slee, thank you so much for the information on I Want Revenge.  Others will be very happy to hear the news.

19 Jun 2013 10:11 AM
Pedigree Ann

Robin -

For a 3yo filly career, try Twilight Tear - she won the CCA Oaks, the Acorn, the Arlington Classic (when it was 10f dirt and a G1-type race; she beat the Derby/Preakness winner Pensive), the Pimlico Oaks, Gazelle, Test, Diana, etc. and finally the Pimlico Special (which was so much more important in those days) over Devil Diver, who was the champion older horse of the year.

19 Jun 2013 11:00 AM
Mary Zinke

slee, One of the blog writers at h r n posted that pre-liminary info. I haven't yet double-checked I Want Revenge's current whereabouts. The search was aided by Mr. Jeffrey Tucker who provided the posted stallion prospect info. There is no longer a website for IEAH, IWR's last owner while he was racing, and as far as I can tell, somehow their archives are deleted, to. So, the search went through Mr.Jeffrey Singer who had a part-interest in the horse. Mr.Tucker and Mr.Singer had also been business partners.

19 Jun 2013 12:46 PM
Mary Zinke

*info also provided by James LaMonica on IWR.  Latest search is for Luv Gov,for a teen fan, if anyone has any info. I have a call in to his last trainer.  Thanks.

19 Jun 2013 12:51 PM
derbylin

Just had to comment on the news of Itsmyluckyday.  Pelvic fracture.  They hope to bring him back in 4mos or so.  God Bless Mike Smith for detecting that something was wrong with the horse.  Will be praying for a lucky future for Itsmyluckyday.

19 Jun 2013 12:59 PM
Mary Zinke

Wonderful tribute to Rachel.  I always enjoy these blogs; I just tend to add to all of the other positive responses late :)

19 Jun 2013 1:05 PM
Colostate85

Thank you again Steve! I just took the time to re-watch a few of Rachel's race replays and I still get worked up! You story was the best!

19 Jun 2013 1:40 PM
slee

Mary - Interesting detective work on I Want Revenge.  The Vinery is for sale and many web sites on his trail are disabled.  Buck Pond Farms' presence on the web is negligible.  I don't see IWR registered as a breeding stallion in KY, FL, NY, Australia or New Zealand.  And he's not on a general list for stallions breeding in Europe this spring.  Curious (but an interesting way to spend a lunch hour!).

"Luv Gov" was running at River Downs in Ohio in 2011, but I bet you have more recent data than that!

Am looking forward to seeing what you turn up.

19 Jun 2013 4:29 PM
Pedigree Ann

Derbylin - Top jocks can feel when things are wrong with a horse; they have ridden so many horses that are 'right' that it stands out to them if to no one else. Remember when Bailey pulled Noble Causeway out of the Jim Dandy after he felt 'wrong' in the warm-up? Nothing showed on the tests, so the trainer wheeled him back in an allowance the following weekend - he broke down before the first turn.

Fortunately pelvic fractures are usually not displaced and will heal well with rest and proper care.

19 Jun 2013 5:54 PM
Mookie's Hero

A wonderful article and a little bittersweet . Can't help recalling CW Anderson's line about Alsab " No three year old in years had been asked for so much and had given so generously. If a little less had been asked there would have been more to give."

19 Jun 2013 6:16 PM
Paula Higgins

RamieF, stop with the nonsense about Zenyatta. This blog IS about Rachel Alexandra but you spent most of your time knocking Zenyatta. The reality is that true horse lovers and racing fans can find plenty to appreciate and love in both girls. Both were spectacular in their own right for different reasons. Comparing them is an exercise in futility and pointless. Loving them both is not.

As for breeding Rachel again, I really wish they wouldn't. I don't think it is worth it to risk it again. I am sure Barbara Banke isn't thrilled about the idea either. Frankly, I wish they would give Zenyatta a rest too, but that didn't happen.

19 Jun 2013 11:44 PM
derbylin

Thank you, Pedigree Ann for your explanation.  The trainer said he was glad that an experienced jockey was on Itsmyluckyday.  I always think back at how the late Chris Antley held Charismatic's injured leg in the Belmont of 1999.

20 Jun 2013 9:10 AM
Paula Higgins

You know I used to think like alot of people do, that if Rachel had not raced as much as she did in 2009 maybe her 2010 year would have been better. That might or might not have been true, but it would definitely be true that she wouldn't have had that spectacular 3 year old record as her legacy. Trainers and owners get dinged by the racing community for A) Running them too much B) Not running them enough. They simply can't win. But I believe they do what they think the horse is capable of, based on their works. Sometimes that translates into the actual race and sometimes it doesn't. Rachel's 3 year old year was so brilliant, that I think we were expecting too much for 2010. It would have been just about impossible to repeat it when you are racing full tilt out for 1 year and you are a female. As someone noted, she was bred for speed and not stamina, which is pretty much standard these days. Personally, I did not feel that Zenyatta was quite the same horse in 2010 either (sorry, forgive me). It has to catch up with them at some point.

20 Jun 2013 1:50 PM
greengirl

Awesome writing, Steve.  I can feel the energy just from your words.  Every once in awhile I still pull up her races online and watch them for kicks.  I tear up when she wins the Woodward every time!

20 Jun 2013 8:48 PM
RamieF

@ Paula Higgins,

You obviously didn't read my comment and see that I was addressing someone else who brought Zenyatta into Rachel's honorary blog post. Furthermore, don't you dare tell me what I can and cannot write...who made you the racing czar?? Finally, tell me which part of my post was untrue, and I will gladly address it! All I conveyed was that Rachel earned the honor in 2009 with her extraordinary campaign, and that Zenyatta didn't deserve the honor based on her subpar campaign (again something I wrote in response to someone else!) Funny how you didn't chastise that person for bringing Zenyatta into Rachel's blog post here, but that is obviously because the comment was sycophantic and thus okay with you.

21 Jun 2013 12:18 PM
Guiness

@Ramie,  Zenyatta deserved her HOTY in 2010. She ran in all grade One races and she was the limelight of 2010. Can you tell me any other horse from that year that brought so much attention to horse racing than she did?  I don't think so?  and Blame, he will always be remembered for the horse that beat Zenyatta by 4 inches in her first Breeders Cup on dirt and also, don't forget, the ground she made up considering how far back she was. She ran the best in that BCC than the rest of the field  did that day. Blame was on his favorite track and surface but she was right there with him coming on strong only to come up a few inches short. And when they crossed the line, she was already passing him. yeah, she was the best of 2010.  And speaking of her 'handling' ,yeah, maybe that's why she was able to run and win for three years because she wasn't all gutted out and run to death in 1 or 2 years.  She still had plenty left in the tank.

21 Jun 2013 3:27 PM
Steve Haskin

This last post was the final one that has anything to do with Zenyatta. I dont believe her name was mentioned in this story.

21 Jun 2013 3:52 PM
Guiness

No it wasn't Steve. And this is about Rachel. I for the life of me can't seem to see why some people just can't keep the focus on the aforementioned horse in the above article. Let's keep this on Rachel.

21 Jun 2013 4:53 PM
TerriV

Oh my God how moving was that!  I can't stop crying. Rachel was a true phenomenon.  I saw her Preakness, her Mother Goose and her Haskell and watched the rest on TV.  We may not have had a triple Crown winner but that doesn't mean we haven't had amazing fillies and colts.  Rachel stands alone in her glory.  

21 Jun 2013 8:55 PM
grey32

@Paula Higgins

It's not that Rachel was over raced in 2009, it's that she stood in a stall for 5 months.

Then was rushed into poor training, after gaining to much weight put in some stupid figure 8 contraption to force het to rate, while being put in grade 1 races and expected to magically pick up where she left off.

The fact that she even hit the board is a testament to her good humor and great talent

This horse was so mishandled the whole crew should have been brought up on charges.

If they had worked her lightly for 4 of those 5 months kept and eye on weight, then put her in real training whose to say what she could have done.

She lost the races she lost in 2010 because she was in poor condition and over weight. I for one am so thankful these **&^*& didn't kill her.

She was not broken in 2009 that's absurd. Human bull rather then admit what a joke it all was.

23 Jun 2013 4:14 PM
ForTheLoveOfTheHorse

Thank you Steve, for resurrecting the racing community’s memory of the greatness of Rachel!  So deserving and so beautifully done!  For all the heart-stopping awe, and goose bumps, and thrills; for “knowing that we were witnessing greatness” race after race; for the deafening history she laid on the track, it’s a tragedy that the media and fans and racing industry were not present for her quiet isolated walk away from the track.  It’s heartbreaking now, even as it was at the time.  So quickly we can dismiss greatness in the wake of a few losses, while not making oneself aware of what she had truly accomplished, and the toll it can take.   I do believe she laid it all out on the track every time, but did leave ALL her heart and soul and body on the track at the Woodward.  Yet, what she was not able to reproduce in 2010, she did – again - in her fight for survival after two difficult birthings – this last one by far the worst, and her greatest fight and will to win – life!  I believe…rather I plead…she has done enough!  Don’t breed her again and put her life in jeopardy again!!  Perhaps this last round of defeating death was the same as her Woodward win.  Perhaps she laid it all out again, and perhaps we still expect more?  Let her live out her life comfortable, happy, being a horse.  For all of us who continue to love and admire her, beyond what words are capable of explaining, just let her live now, a long happy life. Let us know she is simply present in this world and happy, and not being forced to face again the possibility of losing the ultimate battle.

23 Jun 2013 4:50 PM
AnnAhnemann

The best article I have ever read about our beloved Rachel. Thank you so much!

25 Jun 2013 3:02 PM
Mary Zinke

I Want Revenge update. From Buck Pond Farm, "I Want Revenge will be standing at our farm beginning next year(2014)."  

09 Jul 2013 11:57 PM
draynays better half

As good as RA was my memories will always be that her connections feared Zenyatta so much they placed her in races to avoid getting beat. The 3 yr old class that year was pathetic, the KY Derby winner never won another Graded Race, did he ever win again? Has that ever happened b4 with a sound horse who tried for 2 yrs to win again? Win a KY Derby and disappear from the winners circle with no excuses? It took only 1 hard race for her to lose her courage, to burn her out. So many others have experienced the same hard races and had the bottom, and courage to keep on top. I loved watching her race but always knew her competition was suspect. One for the ages? Maybe, but we seem desperate to find one and our standards have lowered.

12 Jul 2013 9:44 AM

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